There is no question that between today’s late afternoon Paramount presentation which he dominated, and tonight’s Pioneer Of The Year dinner at which he was honored, Tom Cruise simply owned CinemaCon today. The superstar effectively had the single film that will save Paramount this summer, and this exhibitors’ confab made him the first actor ever to win their top honor in the 77-year history of the organization which effectively takes care of its own and those most in need. I thought it was cool of Cruise in his acceptance speech to not only acknowledge that but to remember the Will Rogers organization used to pass around collection cups after the trailers played in movie theaters when the lights went up before the feature attraction.
At that dinner, hosted by James Corden in a surprise appearance, and Cruise’s MI co-star Simon Pegg before him, they showed a highlight reel of Cruise’s career that was simply awesome and earned a standing ovation — best clip compilation I have ever seen at one of these things. An event record $1.5 million was earned on the name of honoree Cruise, and along the way during the evening, AMC Theatres announced it was already upping a “considerable” sponsorship contribution by $100,000. Nice. Skydance’s David Ellison, Universal Distribution head Jim Orr and his Paramount counterpart Kyle Davies, now also head of the Rogers org, all spoke.
Corden, who has had Cruise on as a guest several times, double taped his show yesterday so he could be in Vegas for Tom, but said it was a no-brainer. “Tom, you had me at endless buffet,” he joked while adding that it was nice to see an actor winning an award for a change. He mentioned that Cruise’s films have made a combined total of $9 billion for an actor who knows how to choose between “long hair and short hair roles,” while mentioning, “I didn’t know whether to shake his hand or lick his face.”
There was an awkward moment when Tony winning Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr interrupted his superb musical performance to remind Cruise, and especially director Christopher Quarrie (who presented to Cruise) that he was summarily turned down for a role in the latest Mission: Impossible film after he was sent to work with one of the fight coordinators. But, he said, no worries, he was just happy to be in front of the pair once again. Can you say “ouch?” Corden made note of it by saying Odom Jr literally wasn’t in “the room where it happened,” referring to the firing with a lyric from Hamilton. McQuarrie made a cryptic remark upon taking the stage to present Cruise with his award, but was pretty much unfazed and went on to praise his star. “I saw him in Risky Business in high school and I still look like his great uncle,” he laughed referring to the 55-year-old Cruise’s ageless appearance.
For his part Cruise seemed overwhelmed by the attention. “This has been an incredible evening with so many friends. I grew up going to movies since I was four years old. I just always wanted to make movies… I love what I do and I will cherish this beautiful award,” he said before adding it has been 40 years since his first significant role in Taps where they just kept increasing his part, making him sure this is what he wanted to do the rest of this life.
In the late afternoon, as Deadline has already reported, Cruise also owned the show at the two-hour Paramount presentation by taking well over half an hour to describe and show how he pulled off an incredible stunt jumping out of a plane 106 times to get it precisely right for a scene in his sure-to-be summer blockbuster Mission: Impossible Fallout. With McQuarrie by his side, he meticulously went through all the motions of pulling off this remarkably dangerous stunt he insisted on doing without the assistance of a stunt man. Once the final footage was shown there were so many “ooohs” and “ahhhhhs” over the prospect of Cruise actually living after it that there was massive applause.
He dominated the Paramount presentation, and his film is considered the one that could be the saving grace of a year in which Chairman Jim Gianopulos is still putting together all the building blocks in order to turn around the storied studio. If anyone can do it, Jim G is the one. Cruise lavishly praised Gianopulos as “gentleman Jim” and said it was great for Paramount which, let’s face it, has been going through abysmal times and coming in dead last among majors the last few years.
Still Gianopulos spent a lot of time reeling off titles for 2019 and beyond, indicative of the climb the studio is making to get back to its glory years. 2018 is going to be light. He mentioned numerous projects such as Dora The Explorer, Are You Afraid Of The Dark?, Wonder Park, Monster On The Hill, Luck, Sponge Bob: It’s A Wonderful Sponge, Gemini Man, a new Terminator, two new Star Treks, a reboot of Top Gun starring Cruise, Sonic Hedgehog, Pet Sematary, and several production deals from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, to Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, to a deal with producer Neal Moritz, the man responsible for Universal’s Fast And Furious franchise. An end crawl also mentioned the likes of a proposed Coming To America 2 among other hoped-for reboots. Gianopulos appears to be taking the legendary Hollywood studio back to its most recent successful roots. After the show, in fact, Gianopulos told me he was actually at the studio when the first Top Gun was released.
The Par show opened with a very funny video taped bit that showed Gianopulos growing increasingly frustrated over trying to catch a commercial flight to Vegas in time for the show. I told him it showed real acting talent, a deadpan comedic talent on his part. But he was horrified by the thought that it would ever show up anywhere other than the Colosseum Theatre this one single day. He said he shot it in a couple of hours last week.
There was some promising footage, not featuring Gianopulos, shown from a very funny (so far) Mark Wahlberg comedy, Instant Family; the J.J. Abrams very R-rated horror flick Overlord; the Transformers spinoff Bumblebee, directed by Laika’s Travis Knight, which looked fun; Johnny Knoxville’s customarily outrageous Action Point for June 1; and the May 18 adult seniors comedy Book Club with Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen, all of whom graced the Coloseum stage. I’ve seen that one and it’s a winner for older audiences who still clamor for the moviegoing experience they grew up with. Taraji P. Henson showed up to talk about her movie, What Men Want, in rather nonsensical terms since she doesn’t start shooting until tomorrow. Tiffany Haddish, who has been everywhere this week, also appeared to try to explain a new untitled Tyler Perry movie she just finished on Friday and is already scheduled for November 2.
It goes on, but clearly the star of the day at this 2018 CinemaCon was in pure Cruise control and the crowd loved it. Mission: accomplished, Paramount.